Restoring Warren a Priority

The Cleveland Browns, despite a huge investment in the defensive line, are still struggling to stop the run and create pressure on passing plays. If Gerard Warren can become what the Browns envisioned in when Butch Davis drafted him in 2001, however, the defense could improve in a hurry. Our friends at TheSportsXchange take a look at Warren's progress...

The Browns expected big things from Gerard Warren when they made him the third overall pick of the 2001 draft.

Warren was Butch Davis' first draft pick, and he was expected to anchor the middle of a defensive line that would be the strength of Davis' defense.

Things have not worked out that way, though.

In his rookie year, Warren reported late, was arrested during a bye week at a party in Pittsburgh and was fined $35,000 for a hit on quarterback Mark Brunell that the league deemed illegal.

In his second season, Warren reported out of shape and heavy, missed a practice when he had plane problems getting back after the bye weekend and lost some stature with teammates with lackluster play.

Clearly, getting Warren to what the Browns think he can be is an offseason priority.

"There's a lot of pressure on him to step up and perform this year," Davis said.

The Browns coach remains solidly in Warren's corner, which makes sense since he drafted him. Davis said Warren's main problem his second year was taking things for granted after a strong finish to his rookie season.

"He's young," Davis said. "He came out early. You couple that youth and immaturity with the idea you can get away with just about anything in college, get a sack whenever you want to, and you can't do that in the NFL. I don't think he had as good a season prior to the start from a conditioning standpoint. He let his weight get out of hand a little bit and then he tried to crash and lose weight prior to the start of t. camp and didn't get off to a good start."

The Browns envisioned Warren as a run-stopper and collapse-the-pocket tackle. He has shown signs of that ability, but not on a consistent basis -- and consistency is the measuring stick Davis uses to determine a player's contribution.

Davis also stressed, though, that Warren is going through a transition that players like Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan also went through.

"Gerard fell into the trap of getting three sacks against the offensive guard at Vanderbilt, and that guy's an accountant for somebody," Davis said. "So you dominate maybe nine weeks at Florida and then maybe once you played somebody against Georgia and Florida State who's halfway good.

"Now all of a sudden in the NFL, every Sunday there's a guy trying to pound you in the mouth. It's a learning experience to be a good defensive lineman."

The Browns have been pleased with what they've seen from Warren this offseason. Davis said he has been working regularly at the University of Florida, and he has lost 12 pounds and weighs 321 pounds. There were times last season his weight pushed 340.

Davis also said Warren is upset with himself for the way he played in 2002.

The offseason signs, then, are good

What the Browns hope -- and need -- is for the signs to translate into on-field success in 2003.


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